Driving a convertible has always been about freedom, specifically freedom of choice: top up when conditions are unfriendly or unwarranted, or top down to soak in the warm summer sun or cool moonlit breezes. And today it seems there are more freedom-seekers than ever before, judging by the growing number of premium retractable-hardtop convertibles. Lexus' entry-level offering in this segment is the IS 250C. Like its rivals, the Lexus IS 250C combines the timeless allure of an open-roof car with the refinement and all-season functionality of a luxury coupe.
Closed up tight, the 250C looks like a resculpted coupe version of the IS four-door sedan, albeit one with a rather large rear end. At the touch of a button, the three-piece aluminum hardtop roof and side windows elegantly glide away in about 20 seconds, revealing an upscale cabin with high-quality materials. The IS 250C isn't especially swift (you'll want its more powerful 350C sibling for that), but it offers all the fresh air and four-season freedom that two occupants (four in a pinch) could reasonably desire.
Current Lexus IS 250C
The Lexus IS 250C is a four-passenger retractable-hardtop convertible. Power is supplied by a 204-horsepower 2.5-liter V6, with your choice of manual or automatic gearboxes, each with six speeds. It's loaded with all the expected premium amenities, including dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth and eight-way power front seats with easy rear-seat access at the touch of a button. Pop-up rear rollover bars add an extra margin of safety, as do front and rear side curtain airbags, a rarity among convertibles. The options list includes a 12-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system, a navigation system, heated and cooled front seats, and various "F-Sport" performance accessories.
In reviews, our editors have lauded the Lexus IS 250C's coupelike isolation with the top up, and we've also given high marks to its luxurious interior. The backseat is quite cramped, however, and while trunk space measures nearly 11 cubic feet with the top up, that shrinks to a measly 2.5 cubes with the top stowed. On the bright side, one golf bag will still fit with the top down, but don't expect to add anything else.
Our feelings about the IS 250C's driving character are mixed. Handling is competent, and the ride is supple as long as you stick with the standard 17-inch wheels. Acceleration is mediocre -- at our test track, an IS 250C required an estimated 8.4 seconds to reach 60 mph, which is slower than many rival drop tops. The standard manual transmission is unpleasant to operate, but that shouldn't be an issue for the vast majority of IS 250C buyers, who will opt for the smooth six-speed automatic with wheel-mounted shift paddles.
In sum, what the IS 250 convertible has going for it are a relaxed demeanor and Lexus' typical high-quality craftsmanship. If you merely want a composed and classy way to enjoy the scenery, the Lexus IS 250 convertible will likely suit you just fine.
Used Lexus IS 250C Models
The Lexus IS 250C debuted for the 2010 model year. There haven't been any significant changes to the car since.